Inspiration. Ambition.
Passion. Process. Technique.

By: Greg Iwinski

Host Greg Iwinski is joined by CBS New York writer-producer Kathy McGee and CBS Chicago writer-producer Beth Godvik for a conversation about their work in the Broadcast/Cable/Streaming News sector. They discuss the winding paths that make a career, trusting your instincts in a fast-paced news environment, and keeping up with a constantly evolving media landscape.

Kathy McGee is a news writer-producer at WCBS-TV with more than 30 years of experience in broadcast journalism — and over 20 years of experience as an active leader in the WGAE. She writes stories about theater and cultural arts, has served as shop leader at CBS News New York since 2007, and was on the negotiating committee for four CBS contracts.

Beth Godvik is a news writer-producer at CBS Chicago, WBBM-TV, where she has worked since 2004. Beth currently works on the 4:30 to 7 A.M. show cut-ins and 9 A.M. and 11 A.M. newscasts, and she designed the format for WBBM-TV’s weekend morning shows. She’s a union co-steward in her newsroom and has served on three negotiating committees for CBS News contracts.

Kathy and Beth also both serve on the WGAE Council – Beth as a Broadcast/Cable/Streaming News sector councilmember, and Kathy as the Broadcast/Cable/Streaming News Vice President.

This episode of OnWriting is hosted by Greg Iwinski. Greg is an Emmy-winning comedy writer and no-award-winning performer whose writing includes LAST WEEK TONIGHT and THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT. He recently finished writing the first season of GAME THEORY WITH BOMANI JONES on HBO, and can be found on Twitter @garyjackson (external – opens in a new window)


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OnWriting is an official podcast of the Writers Guild of America East. The series was created and is produced by Jason Gordon. Associate Producers are Molly Beer and Tiana Timmerberg. OnWriting’s Designer is Molly Beer. Mix, tech production, and original music by Taylor Bradshaw.

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Thanks for listening. Write on.


Greg Iwinski: You’re listening to OnWriting, a podcast from the Writers Guild of America, East. In each episode, you’ll hear from union members who create film, TV series, podcasts and news stories that define our culture. We’ll discuss everything from inspirations and creative process to what it takes to build a successful career in media and entertainment.

Today, we’re thrilled to be joined by CBS New York writer-producer Kathy McGee and CBS Chicago writer-producer Beth Godvik in a conversation about working in broadcast cable streaming news. We discussed the winding paths that make a career, trusting your instincts in a fast-paced news environment, and keeping up with the constantly evolving media landscape.

Hi everyone. With me today are two incredible members of the Writers Guild and of the Writers Council along with me. First up is Kathy McGee. Kathy McGee is a news writer-producer at WCBS-TV and has been active in the WJE for more than 20 years. She writes stories about theater and cultural arts. She served as shop leader at CBS News New York since 2007 and was on the negotiating committee for four CBS contracts. Kathy has 30 plus years of experience in broadcast journalism. And she’s joined by Beth Godvik, who is a news writer-producer at CBS Chicago, WBBM-TV, that’s fun to say, where she has worked since 2004. Beth currently works on the 4:30 to 7 A.M. show cut-ins, 9 A.M. and 11 A.M. newscasts, and she designed the format for WBBM-TV’s weekend morning shows. She’s a union co-steward in her newsroom and has served on three negotiating committees for CBS News contracts. Kathy and Beth, thank you so much for joining me.

Kathy McGee: Great to be here.

Beth Godvik: Thanks for having us.

Greg Iwinski: Our work is a little bit different. Late night and news are not exactly the same, but they do both source the same stories and work in the similar timeframe of how long you have to tell someone something. Obviously, we late night writers are indebted forever to you because without the news, we wouldn’t have anything to make jokes about. But I would love to learn more about you and also how your jobs work before we talk about more of the union aspects. So how did each of you get started? Did you grow up wanting to be a journalist, wanting to be a reporter to work in news, work in radio or TV? Did you go to journalism school? What was the start of your career like?

Kathy McGee: I’ll start. So I sort of stumbled into journalism and by stumbling, I mean really just by accident. I went to Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and I was originally there as an engineering student and was partying a little too much, not keeping up with all the lab work as an engineering student and was sent to the College of Arts and Sciences to pull up my grades and started taking journalism classes and just thought, “Wow, I can party and keep my grades up.” Realistically and honestly, I just decided, “I like writing, I’m just going to stay here in journalism.”

That’s sort of how I got into journalism as a student. And then as an employee or a professional sort of stumbled into television because once I got into journalism, I decided I wanted to be in print journalism and only took print courses. I was not a communications major, I was in the school of journalism, so I was hoping to be a newspaper reporter and was working for the college newspaper, writing feature stories on sports profiles mainly. And met the man who was considered the dean of Sports Broadcasting in Oklahoma, and he invited me to come into Oklahoma City the next time I was at home and stop by the television station and he’d show me around. And so I, on spring break or Thanksgiving break, I can’t remember which break, I stopped by the television station. He showed me around and he said, “Anytime you want to work here, you can.” And so when I was looking for a job, I got a job there as a production assistant.

Greg Iwinski: Wow, that’s amazing. What an interesting route there. Who knew that partying could get you to journalism? That’s great.

Kathy McGee: Or the lack of being a devoted engineering student.

Greg Iwinski: Yes.

Beth Godvik: My thing is a little bit different. My family, since I was six years old, the TV news has always been on in our house. It was on when my mom was making dinner in the kitchen and things like that. So I’m pretty sure I was the only 6-year-old who knew all the names of the people on TV and the journalists and stuff. And when I was six, I was convinced I would marry Bill Kurtis, who everybody knows from Anchorman. It was just always in my life, but it wasn’t like, “Oh, I’m going to do this.” And in high school I wrote for the paper and I took a journalism course and my teacher was really inspiring and I thought, “Okay, well maybe I’ll do this.” And I went to DePaul University in Chicago and I started taking print journalism. I was going to write for the Tribune, that was my path.

And I had this teacher, Dr. Bruce Evensen, who was very, very involved, very encouraging. He was a great mentor and he was like, “You’re a wonderful writer, but your style is more suited for TV, so you should really consider that.” And so I did and I ended up getting internships. I had three internships in Chicago. It kind of narrowed down what I wanted to do. I went from, “Oh, I’m going to be on TV. I’m going to be a reporter.” So many people come in thinking, then I was like, “Oh, you have to go out and be in the snow and sit out there when it’s freezing cold and control your destiny? You get assigned stories.” Like you can pitch great ideas, but then they go, “Yeah, that’s great. We want you to do this other thing.” So I started thinking about what was going on and what was useful for my skill set.

And I watched the producers and I was like, “I could do that. I can write.” I’m like, “I’m really good at organizing things and I’m a bit bossy. I like to tell people what to do.” My mom has said since I was two years old that I’ve been in management training, so I’m like, “I got this. I can handle this.”

So I sort of just fell into producing. It was just kind of a natural fit. And then I first worked in Fort Wayne. I drew a map. I took a map out and I drew a circle of how far away from my home I wanted to be and Fort Wayne, Indiana was about three hours from Chicago and I was like, “Okay, that’s far enough that I’m away, but close enough if I needed to go home and sleep in my own bed, I could.” And so I did that and then I moved to Columbus, Ohio, and then I came back to Chicago and I’ve been working at WBBM since. So it’s been a great ride.

Greg Iwinski: See, that’s great. And I love to, in all sorts of writing, that each of us have our own journey. I think starting out as writers, people ask, “Well, how do I get there? How do I do what you do?” And there’s never one perfect path. But the thing that unites all the stories in both of yours is being passionate, seeing that your skills worked with something and then diving into it. And that, I have to say, I grew up in my house. We had NPR on the radio all day, and then at night it was like PBS NewsHour, MacNeil/Lehrer, McLaughlin Group. Again, I was like an 8-year-old who we watched McLaughlin Group and then we watched Star Trek Next Generation, and that was my exciting Friday night, like listening to Jack Germond get yelled at by Eleanor Clift, and I’m like, “Oh.” I had no idea what they were talking about, but they were characters I got to know. It’s interesting how the influences we have early on. I’m not surprised I work in news comedy, being exposed to so much news.

Kathy McGee: And you hit on something really that’s key I think to all of us when you said characters that we got to know because that’s what we do every day, we’re looking for characters, whether or not we’re writing news stories or writing scripted television, it is sometimes about the character development and telling their stories.

Beth Godvik: It’s the people with a great soundbite that make you go, “Oh.” You have that surprise, whether it’s good or bad or whether you’re like, “This person is a little unhinged or they make a really good point,” and it is, it comes off as that.

Greg Iwinski: Can you guys talk a little bit about that, about like all writing, there are skills outside of it, there’s the producing, but developing the judgment call of when something is it? You could talk to 10 people on the street or 10 people at a company that are sources or see a bunch of different possible storylines. How do you develop that sense of knowing when it’s a good story, a good quote, something to use?

Beth Godvik: I think sometimes it’s just that factor you just know. A lot of it’s just experience. Like when you start out, all of us are very green, and so when you go into smaller markets, your newscast is very different. Like when I go and visit my husband’s family in Ohio, I’ll watch a different newscast and I’m like, “Oh, well, it’s nice to see them giving someone their start in the business or something.” And it is, and it’s different.

And I think that’s true across the country. Like what people want in different markets is a very different thing. New York and Chicago are very serious about their news. Don’t BS them. “Give it to us straight. We don’t need all the fluff and stuff.” So you kind of get to the point. And I think Kathy would agree, we deal with so many politicians that we are used to hearing things that maybe aren’t 100% true or they’re made a little glossier than they should be. So you kind of just have to learn and go through it and get that experience. Find a mentor in your newsroom to be like, “Is this a good soundbite or this is not?”

There are some that are very obvious like, “This is what you use.” And then others that you’re like, “Well, I don’t know if this is quite the right pick.” And then even with stories, I get stories all the time just from talking to people. We joke that my daughter’s school is a great source for stories because I just talk to the other parents at pickup time and we’re like, “Oh, what’s going on? Or what’s this?” And people will tell you things not thinking it’s a story at all, and you’re like, “That’s a great story.”

And then other times they come to you and they’re like, “I have this amazing story for you.” And you’re like, that’s not something we would ever do. And you have to find that nice diplomatic way of saying, “Thank you so much. I will take it to my editors,” or I always try and blame it on the higher ups, like “I don’t know why they didn’t like that. Yeah, it was great. Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

But it’s kind of just experience. It’s like a learn through doing, almost a trial by fire because you can pitch some story that you’re really passionate about and everyone else is like, “Dude, that’s awful.” And you could just go through that.

Kathy McGee: I agree. It is a lot about news instincts and that doesn’t really hit you until you have experience and it’s just knowing what is a story. And you have to have, as a journalist working, especially in a television newsroom where you have constant deadlines, you really have to develop those strong news instincts to know when a story is a story because you may only have five, 10 minutes to make a decision about whether or not you’re going to cover something. It’s not as if you can plan a meeting, talk about it, bring in more people to determine what’s going to happen, how are you going to cover it? It’s breaking news. You go now. And we’re constantly doing that, but you’re constantly having to change as well. If you get there and you determine that this isn’t what you thought it was going to be, your news instincts have to kick in right then, and then you’ve got to pivot to something else because you still have to turn the story.

Greg Iwinski: Right. Could you walk us through what a typical work day is like? I think Beth, it’s like a work morning, early, early morning, I think if you’re doing 4:30 news, but for each of you, what does that look like, a regular day at work?

Beth Godvik: Every day is different. You have kind of the skeleton of what your day is going to be. Now we are on live from 4:30 in the morning until 11:30 in the morning. We do broadcast and we do stream. My schedule is a smidge different now. I go into work at 5 A.M. and I am writing things that air in our 5:30 half hour. I go in and I hit the ground running and it’s constant go, go, go, go, do this, make calls, do this. And it slows down a little bit. And we have different producers for each show, and they all want different things. They want different styles, and then you have different anchors. So the way you write for one anchor is not quite the way you’re going to write for another one. And its morning shows just in general are very go, go, go, go, go.

And when you’re done, you’re done. It’s like, “Okay, I have to breathe.” There’s been times where you’re coordinating with your other coworkers to be like, “I really need to go to the bathroom, but this is not done, so can you please pick this up?” Because it’s really feeding the beast. And then if when you throw breaking news in there, all bets are off where you’re just like… There was a day the other day where I’m like, “Okay, I’m going to go to lunch for my 30-minute lunch.” And a minute before I was about to leave, they were like, “Hey, there’s a breaker.” And I was like, “Oh, should I run out the room right now?” Because you know, otherwise you’re just not going. And everyone’s like, “Oh, I’ll jump in,” but you know. There’s also the adrenaline of, “Oh, I want to do this and I need to help my team.”

And morning shows are very team mentality, very team-oriented. Everybody’s trying to help one another, but every day is different. You can kind of know, “Oh, we have the governor speaking today,” or “Oh, there’s an event with the mayor.” There are some planned things. But then you just kind of see what’s happening and you just have to be very flexible and task-oriented. And also you have to know when you have too much, where you have to go to people and say, “Hey, I know you gave me three VOs, but this is not going to happen. Or I know you want me to listen to the presser and get a sound bite for you, but I’m telling you, then you have to take away something else.”

So you have to be in constant communication with everybody, and it can be challenging. And I think that’s a big thing where you have to learn to say no, because everybody wants the best work. Everybody wants the best show, but sometimes you have to know your limitations and say, “Listen, I can do this, but it’s not going to be a quality work,” and nobody wants it. Everybody wants the best thing.

Kathy McGee: I agree with Beth on everything she just said about just the challenges that you face daily and how every day is different, and knowing what you can and can’t do is really important too.

My role and my job is a little different. I work afternoons, so I go in, I’d like to say my job starts at 2:00 P.M. but realistically it starts sometimes at 8 A.M. or 9 A.M. This morning, I was responding to a press rep on a Broadway show. Because I work as a theater producer, I’m in constant communication with Broadway press reps. So my job essentially is probably more like 10, 12 hours a day every day because I’m setting up, I’m responding to email, and then when I get to work, the writing begins. I write for the 5, 6, 8 and 11 P.M. newscast now that we do. And it’s constantly working with reporters, writing the VOs and the both sides in the newscast that you have to write.

But in addition to the writing, we also have to edit our own video now. That’s something that we’ve been doing as writers for about 10 years. And we’ve had layoffs at CBS, so we have fewer people that are able to edit those stories. So even if you had a breaker that you needed to get edited, sometimes it’s a little difficult because there may not be an editor available. So sometimes we are having to write and edit everything, even if we’re given additional stories. And Beth just describing having too much. That was me yesterday. I had a lot on my plate when I walked in the door at 5:00, and then the show has grown upside down, stories are added, stories are taken away, and then we’re all scrambling at 4:00 to get everything written and edited because everything changed at 3:30 and that happens quite frequently.

Greg Iwinski: Yeah, I think that’s a commonality I think with late night as well is the idea of we have the feeling of you pitch something in the morning at 8:30, it gets approved, you make it, you write it, you get it past all the things, and then you’re going to tape at 5:30. It’s 4:30, crazy thing happens in the news, and so now two and a half minutes are coming out of your monologue, not because it was bad, but because it’s no longer the news and you’re like, “Oh, we got to start all over with the brand new thing” under a time crunch and just being okay with constantly going, “Well, nope,” with that constant kind of instability.

I talked to beginning late night students and writing students about this a lot, but I would love to hear from you about we all work in places where writer’s block is not, it can’t exist, but I know that there are writers who are starting out and also I think when you have more time, you can sit down at a blank page and feel like, “Oh, I’m stuck. I have writer’s block.” What do you do to overcome that? What would you say to a writer starting out who feels like writer’s block is a problem for them?

Kathy McGee: Well, when I’m writing and you don’t have a lot of time to think about it, as you said, writer’s block is not an option. I mean, you’re just sticking to the facts. You’re writing the facts down. I think that if that is your focus when you’re trying to be creative and you can’t be creative, you’ll be okay in the moment, just telling a story for what is actually happening.

Beth Godvik: I always say too, if you can’t think of what your lead is going to be, try and start in the middle. Just start in the middle and work from there. We do a lot too in our newsroom where we all kind of sit at, we call it the pod. It’s like 10 desks, five on each side facing each other, and we bounce things off people all the time like, “What do you think of this? Or does this work or does this sound weird?”

I was an adjunct professor at DePaul. I would tell the kids, “Just start. Just start writing. Always be reading your copy out loud. Be muttering. You’re going to sound like a crazy person, but be muttering to yourself because what we’re doing is we’re trying to have a conversation with people and there are things that you will say in a print script that you would never have out of your mouth.”

We were just having this conversation in the newsroom the other day talking about police will say, “Well, then the suspect fled on foot.” And I was talking about the mom rule and how would you tell your mom the story? And I would never say to my mom, “And then he fled on foot.” She’d be like, “What is wrong with you?” You say, “And then he ran away.”

And so sometimes we get so wrapped up in like, “Well, this is what the official speak is.” Or if you’re writing a health story and you’re talking about a new drug, you’re like, okay, there are certain words that you have to put in. You need the crazy names of the drugs that are out there. But you have to also think of, “Well, how am I going to talk to an everyday person about this?” And you think from there, but there’s lots of different ways. I think you look at your coworkers and you’re like, “Can you help me with this?” Again, news is a team sport. Like, “Let’s go. I need help. Come on in.”

Greg Iwinski: And thank you for those answers because I think they work… What’s great about them is they work, even if you were writing fiction, if you’re writing a television sitcom or a drama or a movie, those ideas of just start writing out what happens like Kathy, you said just write. Even if it’s a fictional story, if you know what happens, just write what happens. And if you get stuck, you can start in the middle. If you get stuck, you can bounce ideas off people and to make sure to read it out loud, to make sure it sounds normal. But those are all things that can help because I think an underlying principle of writing is it’s easier to fix a bad thing that exists than to worry about creating a great thing that doesn’t exist yet.

Beth Godvik: 100%.

Greg Iwinski: I had an old director at Second City who was like, “I can’t make a show out of an idea, but I can make a show out of a script.” And it’s like, yeah, you just make it and then go from there.

Kathy McGee: And if you’re crunched for time, which we often are in a newsroom and you need to go down to the cafeteria to grab something to eat or walk just to clear your head, I’m walking and writing. I might be working on that next script that I have to get to when I get back to the newsroom, but I might write the lead as I’m walking down to the cafeteria. And sometimes what I will do if I’m doing that, I will email a paragraph back to myself. It’s a matter of time management sometimes and multitasking, and that’s what I do when I need to.

Greg Iwinski: Kathy, so you have a Broadway theater beat, which seems like a pretty unique assignment in news. As a writer yourself and knowing so many WGA members, some of whom are writing plays and doing this, but you’re covering a world of writing as a writer, what is that like? I mean, I assume it’s pretty fun to cover Broadway, but what is that beat like?

Kathy McGee: Well, I love it. It’s what I am passionate about and I sort of created it for myself. I’ve been working on theater stories for about 12 years now, 12, 13 years, and I was asked to help out Dana Tyler who anchors our 6 P.M. newscast and was doing the theater stories for channel two. So I would help her on my own time, and then I just sort of created a way that I could do this and the station would pay me to do it by giving me the time to do it. So I wasn’t doing it on my own time.

I get to go to red carpet opening nights. I cover the Tony Awards. I interview the nominees for all of the Tonys. It’s fantastic for me because I grew up in Oklahoma where I did not have access to Broadway shows or of Broadway shows or really even touring companies back then, but my mother listened to a lot of cast recordings, so I had the idea of what Broadway could be like, and I was a fan of variety television shows in the late ’60s and ’70s so I got to see a lot of these performers.

So I was familiar with theater and Broadway. It was always my goal to want to live in New York City so that I could see a Broadway show.

Greg Iwinski: That’s awesome.

Beth Godvik: Now Kathy gets messages from everybody asking, “Hey, this show is coming to town, is it worth my time?” For Broadway, I ask her.

Kathy McGee: Yeah. But no, it’s great. I get to talk to people about what it is that they do, and I have a better understanding of just what theater is in general and how hard it is and how it’s the most difficult of the performing arts. You have to be the most disciplined to work in theater. And I happen to have some really close friends who, one friend is a Broadway composer, so I’ve known for a long time what the process was, what it takes to bring a musical to Broadway, not that someone had an idea tomorrow and in two years, it will be on a Broadway stage. I know that’s a six, seven, sometimes 12-year process. I recently spoke with Alicia Keys about her new Broadway show, and it was a 12-year journey for her.

So I know a little bit more about the inside of Broadway and just the performing arts in general. I think I’m more enriched because of it, but I also think that theater provides a lifeline for a lot of people. I’m a strong believer of that, and that had it not been for theatrical arts, a lot of people would be really struggling more than they are right now.

Greg Iwinski: And I think you’re kind of continuing… There were ways in which Broadway could reach you in Oklahoma, and you’re continuing to find ways to talk about it and expand it to people who might not see it. I grew up in Arizona, so we did not have a lot of great touring in the ’80s.

Kathy McGee: I had one more thing. On the other side of that coin is another sort of passion, but I’m also heavily involved in politics. So I write, if I’m not writing a Broadway story, I might be writing a story about Donald Trump.

Greg Iwinski: That’s a good balance then to have the theater to kind of lighten-

Kathy McGee: It is.

Greg Iwinski: … lighten the mood.

Kathy McGee: It absolutely is, especially after covering Donald Trump every day during the 2020 campaign, to look forward to theater was just like a lifesaver for me.

Greg Iwinski: Yeah, I think we might all… I watched that campaign, I believe I watched every rally because we were watching for poll quotes, and I didn’t understand what that was doing to my brain until much later. To watch an hour and a half of him every day was a lot, which I think would be for any politician, to get to know their tics that well, but this is what we do. This is what we do.

Beth, so you designed the format for the weekend morning shows at WBBM. What is a format? How do you design it? How do you approach that when it’s a blank page? What’s that like?

Beth Godvik: So we didn’t have weekend morning news for a couple of years. We had it, it went away, it came back, it went away. And so when they brought it back, our new director at the time said, “Hey, I would like you to be in charge of this and put this together and get it on the road.”

It’s basically you put together a skeleton for how the show goes every day, every time you do it. You have an intro where you’re going to do weather, in theory, where you do health or money stories and sports. And so you kind of have sections of how it’s going to go, how long each segment should be, where your breaks are, what kind of things you’re teasing. If you’re putting in different things we call bump-ins, like you might have a fun music bump. Like, “Hey everybody, let’s get our day started. It’s going to be a great day.” Kind of something bouncy to wake you up.

And then you think of different elements that some are kind of plug and play-ish where like, “Oh, we’re going to do on this day in history here, or here’s a music bump related to it’s somebody’s birthday.” Just things you would do. And then your content changes. We call it a news hole. You say like, “Oh, I have a six-minute news hole on the first block,” and you would fill it with six minutes of news of the day. Or you might have a thing where you use a national reporter at a certain time every day, or you have a money watch reporter. All different stuff like that of this is kind of, in theory, if everything goes to plan, this is how you do things every day. So it’s kind of like the starting point of this is what you do.

Now, I am very lucky. I’ve left it in the gracious hands of our fabulous weekend producers, and I’m Monday through Friday and it’s expanded. We used to just do one hour of news and now on Saturday mornings we do three and we do three on Sunday mornings, and it’s a lot. And they do a great job. And they’ve tweaked it to… I mean, when I first designed it, it was before my daughter was here, so it was more than 10 years ago. But it was a good experience and it was an experience too where I had to learn of what I wanted and what I thought would be best for the show and then also deal with managers saying, “Well, let’s try this, or let’s do it this way,” and kind of the art of compromise and what to fight over and what to not. And there were some things that I said, “Well, let’s do this segment or let’s make it different.”

And some things flew and some things didn’t as in normal things, but I’m really lucky now. My bosses too are really great. I go to them with different ideas for segments and they’re really encouraging. They don’t always say yes to everything. I think everybody would understand. They have been really great. I now produce a segment called The Mental Health Minute. I think we could all use a pick me up, and it’s just little things that you can do during your day to help you get through it in a moment of stress or when you’re just having a rough time, how to reset your mind and do it. And it’s everything from the little pop its. I don’t know if your kids have this, Greg, where the little things. They’re like a plastic reusable version of packing bubbles. Just little things like that of we talk about what is it, how does it work, and how does it help you?

And we’ve done all sorts of things from doing different yoga poses to just kind of stretch out and relax your body, and then that helps you kind of take a breath to deep breathing. There’s something called The Five where you literally take your hand and you trace up and you inhale in on the up and you exhale on the down and you do your whole thing.

My daughter actually taught me that. It was a COVID thing. Their school counselors came and told them, and at the time I was like, “That is so simple and brilliant, and it takes less than 30 seconds, but it really does help.” I feel like we could all use that, just in general, not even when we’re super stressed out, but they’re so helpful. I went to my bosses and I was thinking, they’re going to be like, “This is dumb, get out of my office.” But they were like, “Yeah, okay.”

So we’ve been doing them and it’s the only thing I’ve ever worked on where all the feedback has been positive, where everybody’s like, “That’s so great. It’s such a breath of fresh air. It’s so helpful.” And I still keep waiting for somebody to come up to me and be like, “Dude, that sucks,” but they haven’t, and it’s been nice. So it’s nice to be able to not just do news, but to do something that I feel like it’s news adjacent, but it’s helpful to people. And I think sometimes we forget as journalists that our mission isn’t just to tell people what’s going on. It’s also to help you throughout your day. There’s so many different ways to do it, whether it’s through information and telling you what’s going on, or if it’s like, “Let us give you a little something that can make your life better.”

Kathy McGee: Beth, I’m going to try that. I’m going to actually look for some of those tips that you just mentioned because I think we can use it in our newsroom every day.

Beth Godvik: They’re all on So you can find, we’ve done… I’m going to say 15 of them. I’m not sure if that’s the right number. But it gives me joy just getting to do them and being like, “Oh, that’s a good idea.” And I’ve learned so many different things through them. And for Valentine’s Day, I gave everybody heart pop its. Maybe not everybody, I kind of ran out of them, but a lot of people. I had two dozen and I gave them all out. And every day in the newsroom, I see somebody using one. Because I mean, news is stressful, so you’ll just see… And it’s not like a mindless thing, but it’s something that kind of helps your nervous energy so you can better focus on what you’re doing. And it gave me such joy to be like, “Oh, okay, this is really helping. This is nice.”

Greg Iwinski: Yeah. No, my kids do have several of those and they’ll just sit there and pop all of them. You talked about that those news segments for TV are up on CBS Chicago, and it does seem now like there’s this blending of news from all of these different sources. I think about, I grew up with listening to KTAR 6:20 AM in Arizona. And TAR was for the Arizona Republic. It was owned by the newspaper. But you would listen to, that was it. You listen to sports and you had… Then it moved to FM, and then now it’s just called Arizona Sports, which is also the domain name of the site that it’s on so that you have radio and it’s on here and TV.

As all of this new stuff blends together… It’s on an app, it’s on maybe satellite radio, it’s on a local affiliate. You have TV things that are on YouTube, that are on social media. How has all of the kind of blending of platforms affected newsrooms, affected your workflow?

Kathy McGee: It takes more time. I think that you have to think differently. We’re doing our broadcast every day, five or six newscasts on traditional broadcast every day, but then we have four hours that are streamed. So it takes a few more people in terms of the company, only a few more people to stream, but it does take more time from everyone to be able to put all of this content out. And actually, I’m going to say content using air quotes because I find more news directors across the country and news organizations are moving away from news and terming it as content. But news is news. And I think that, I don’t think we should be moving away from calling news news, but that’s another-

Greg Iwinski: I fully agree with you just on that. What we do is not content. We make a TV show or a radio play or a newscast or… That’s not content. It has a name, it’s art, and then you can inside of it delineate what kind of writing or piece you’re doing. Fully agree, yeah.

Kathy McGee: Yeah. So we’re required to stream newscast. And then you have a website. In some newsrooms, not in all newsrooms, but in many newsrooms, there’s a web team. And we have a web team in our newsroom. BBM has a web team, but you’re also required to post on social media. That is a different skill, and I think that requires a social media team, but I don’t think that newsrooms have been quick enough to recognize that social media is a different type of news consumption than watching on broadcast or watching the same anchors stream a newscast. It’s different, and you have to approach it differently. You have to ask different questions. You actually have to visually tell the story differently.

And so I think it’s challenging for many newsrooms to try to figure that out and trying to do it all at once because now everyone’s under a lot of pressure to put out more news stories on all platforms, and that’s really challenging and we have to do it, too.

I’ve been on red carpets where I’m doing interviews in one hand with a microphone, interviewing someone, shooting in my other hand on my iPhone that’s just for social media. And then in between interviews, posting on social media what I just shot on my phone, because it’s different and it has to be more immediate. It can’t be wait until I get back to the newsroom, get it edited, get it written, get it anchored or posted by a reporter and then put out on a platform. It has to go out right now.

Greg Iwinski: I actually have two follow-ups on that, that might be us getting very nerdy into writing and journalism, but that’s what this podcast is for. So one of them is local journalism has dropped in terms of how… local newspapers, right? There’s a lot less local reporting. Do you think this increased use of social media, of internet space, of being able to get it up on a website without printing… I know there’s issues with trust and reliability and these things, but is that a path towards helping our local journalism come back?

Kathy McGee: I think it could be. And the perfect example of that is going to be the North Shore Leader out on Long Island that broke the George Santos resume fabrication story. That’s a local newspaper that zeroed in on some questionable things and started asking questions. It wasn’t until the New York Times and other major newspapers picked up on it, but they all sort of referred back to this North Shore Leader as the source of where all of this began.

And I think that gives local reporting, local journalism a little more credibility than it had two years ago. Not that it didn’t warrant the credibility, it just wasn’t visible. And I think right now what we’re seeing is a need, a quest by viewers to have their stories told in their communities. And with newspapers cutting back and television stations cutting back, they’re not getting what they think they need that’s telling their stories.

Beth Godvik: We have in Chicago, we have a website called Block Clubs Chicago, and they are hyper local. They are in the neighborhoods. They have dedicated reporters covering usually about three neighborhoods, and I read them almost every day. I have a subscription. I’m super happy to support what they’re doing, and I find out about a lot of stuff happening in my neighborhood that I don’t necessarily know about.

I know that’s true for a lot of the suburbs in Chicago, because Chicago is so big, it’s hard to cover everything that’s going on. You can’t always get out to cover maybe the mayoral race in one of the suburbs that it’s not of interest to the entire viewing area. But it’s a big deal for those people and they need the information. I think it is so important. And other places where they don’t maybe live near a major market, they still need news. They still need people covering.

And if we’ve learned nothing else from local journalism, it’s that these are the people who are holding your government officials accountable saying, “Hey, do you know there’s something kind of funny going on in the accounting at the school board?” Or, “This politician has only showed up for work for 10 days in the past year.” And I mean, you and I cannot just go out and do that on a normal basis as a citizen. We need people who are kind of the watchdog groups.

That’s the thing that concerns me when you hear little newspapers folding where you’re like, “Okay, well, nobody in the town is going to keep track of what’s happening and the problems until it becomes a huge problem.” And then we see like in Flint, Michigan where their water lines are big issues or like, “Oh, by the way, the town is $50 million in debt and we have no way to get out of it,” because the local journalists are the ones who are doing that stuff. And we can’t just rely… Even with the national media, I think there is a sense that will they cover the political elections?

Well, I think we all need to be covering things like that because there’s just things that matter in some parts of the country that don’t matter as much in other parts. I know Kathy and I have talked about different things where we’re like, “That’s not a thing in Chicago,” and it’s a huge thing in New York, but we all talk about when we see the Iowa caucuses, “Well, how does that play in Iowa?” Well, Iowa people seem like very lovely people, but their problems are not my problems. And I mean that’s what it also comes down to too. Local is important because every place has their own set of problems, their own set of issues that they need to work on. We all need to come together as a community to deal with things.

Greg Iwinski: And that’s part of why it’s so important to support local journalism, too. Like you said, these issues impact you the most. Sometimes who’s president or senator or those things, they impact you in a large sense. But do our streetlights work? Is the trash picked up? Are our libraries open? These are things that impact you in a much more immediate way, which I think a lot of times we put that message into, “You need to go vote.” But I think what you’re saying, Beth, is we need someone to point out when bad things are happening that are affecting us so directly.

Which this ties into my second nerdy question, which is there is an increased distrust in institutions in America now in politics and religion and government and all of these things. But at the beginning of this interview, we talked about the characters in the news that we knew.

Like I knew Gergen and Shields. If you want to go back, like guys who are arguing on PBS, and I’m like, “Those guys are smart,” because I see them on the news and they talk about… But we’re building these characters. We know Brokaw, Jennings, Walters, all of these people. Does social media being so immediate, the shows that you are making now on television, even those shows now in 2024, I sit with these people for hours at a time. I get to know them. I build a level of trust with them. And do you think that, is that part of what has kind of shaken our news up is that when you’re getting just headlines on Twitter or social media videos or like you’re saying, Kathy, you’re recording it differently for social media, it might not be you being there telling them. Is part of the issue with our journalism and how its trust is eroded, the removal of the actual journalist from our stories and our reporting and our news desk?

Kathy McGee: I think to a certain extent it is, but you can’t really turn back. That train has left the station. So I think you have to deal with people where they are right now and try to reach them and tell them news stories on their platforms that they’re on, whether it’s Threads, whether it’s X, whether it’s Instagram. There is a way to do journalism that way, but I think the key is accuracy.

You can build a community, build a viewership, a loyalty base if you have credibility. And the credibility starts with being accurate and telling stories fairly and being inclusive in how you tell those stories. If I’m going to tell a story and I’m going to talk about reproductive health and I’m only going to interview white men talking about reproductive health, you have lost credibility from me as a viewer. I think that you can do it and you can attract people, but you have to be really deliberate in how you’re telling those stories and who you’re trying to reach, and the people that you’re using to reach them.

Beth Godvik: It’s so different. Each platform is different on what people have the attention span for. Like we’ve tried to take different things that we’ve done in the newsroom and translate it for, “Well, this works on Twitter and this is good for an Instagram reel, and this will make a good TikTok.” Even sometimes you’re like, “Well, this won’t work because it’s not as visual, or this won’t work because we shot our video horizontal and the platform is vertical.”

And I was on a shoot and our one web producer who was helping with social media said to me, “Could you please shoot vertical intros and stuff?” I was like, “Okay.” And I’m like, “I’m not a photographer.” And so we just did the, “Hey, I’m on the socials doing FaceTiming thing,” and it’s such a different… I had to say to her, “Tell me what you need.” And they don’t always speak up about that, partly because of the workload, partly because people are like, “Well, I already did this story and I’m not going to do it another way.” And you’re just like, “Yeah, but we would like people to see this story, so what’s the greatest outreach you can have?”

And I think too, another thing that we do is when we put it on the socials in whatever way we do, usually we have a link to the original story where it’s like, “If you want to go more in depth, if you want to see more.” And that’s the hard thing now. I feel like Americans do not want to do their homework. They’re like, “I got the headline. That’s fine.” And we all know headlines can be clickbait or they might not tell the whole story. Sometimes they’re a little misleading because they want you to read the whole article, and there’s so much that it’s just people don’t want to dive in and go through the whole thing. And I’ve read articles where I’m like, “This is way too long,” and I’ll cut out after halfway, and I haven’t done the whole thing.

And it’s frustrating as a reader, but I’m sure it’s more frustrating for the person who wrote it who was like, “Why are people not responding? Or why is this not getting the traction?” Because it’s really hard to keep people’s attention span. And even the whole idea of having a 30-minute broadcast, it’s no longer appointment TV. People don’t come home and go, “I’m going to watch 5:00 news.” I mean, they were already doing other stuff anyway. They were maybe making dinner or talking to the kids, or if you’re even home at 5:00 and it’s so different and people are just consuming their news different, and it’s a hard thing to wrap your head around and figure out how best to serve them and also be hitting the goals that you need to hit to keep the news on the air.

Kathy McGee: Yeah. It sort of goes back to what I was saying earlier about doing things differently for different platforms because we can’t really expect people are going to devote that much time to something on Instagram. I think about my own time and how much time I have to scroll through social media, and if I see something interesting for 30-second clip, a minute clip, that’s about all the time I’m willing to devote to that.

So even if it’s a news story, it needs to be a complete news story, whether or not it’s just something feature-ish or quick interview with a politician, but they need to have the sense of what this person is talking about in the time that they click on whatever platform they’re on, because most people are not going to want to click on a link, sit through all the ads on the link before the story starts that has the complete seven-minute story that we aired in our broadcast.

So it’s different storytelling, and it’s probably a different question than what is going to be in the broadcast story. What I’ve been doing when I’m covering on the red carpet now for social media is asking something that is totally unrelated to the event that I’m covering. I may be covering the red carpet for An Enemy of the People or Water for Elephants, which is tomorrow. If I’m going to be on the red carpet, I’m going to ask an interview that has nothing to do with the event. It may be something as simple as, “What was your favorite children’s television show?” I don’t know, just making that up, but I’m just saying that that’s something that lives on social media in a different way than a news story would, your typical news story.

Greg Iwinski: That makes sense. I mean, even in monologue now, it’s like you’re doing the longest, you’re talking about one story or two or three minutes, then you got to move on to the next one.

We only have time for a couple more questions. One that came up a lot last year, and I think is big, is AI. You were just talking about accuracy and speed, and AI offers one of those, it seems like. But what are your feelings about/predictions for AI and how are you seeing companies address the fact that the models are inaccurate? And that, I think a big problem for a lot of people, there’s a lot of implicit bias in these models that’s built out. So when you have these AIs where you’re saying, “Draw a criminal,” and it’s showing a person of color, I don’t know if that’s the AI that I want doing my news. So how has it impacted your newsrooms? How does it look like it might in the future?

Beth Godvik: I think mostly people are concerned. I think that’s the thing. We haven’t had too much, at least with our leadership who’s like, “Let’s put this in. It’ll be great.” There’s a lot more of like, “Okay, this is out here. I don’t think we want to use it yet, but let’s monitor it.” And obviously, people are always concerned that it could take away jobs, but I also think it’s led to some good discussions in our newsroom because of things like you just mentioned, where people are like, “Well, what are we putting on? Or what kind of words are we using? Or how are we describing people?” Like we have a policy on mugshots that we’ll use them when the person gets charged. We’ll use them initially and then we don’t keep showing them unless there’s a specific reason. And partly because who’s getting charged and things like that. And we don’t want to perpetuate the stereotype of one group over another.

And even I had a discussion with one of our reporters, this is a long time ago, where we were talking about just putting out suspect descriptions. And a lot of times, they’re so vague that it’s like you might get the color of somebody’s person and what they were wearing or maybe their height. You’re not getting a real big thing. And it’s just like, “Well, is this even useful? Why are we putting this out there?” And it really hit home for me. I agreed with her. I was like, “Okay, that makes sense.” I’m like, “That doesn’t seem like a big thing to take away if it’s not serving the public.”

My neighbor who, I think she was in her eighties at the time, I came home from work, and obviously she knows I work in the news, and she’s like, “I think I saw that person running around the neighborhood.” And I was just like, “What person are you talking about?” And it was like something that happened nowhere near our house. And she was like, “Oh, yeah, I have this description.” And I was like, “Okay. I don’t think it was him,” but I’m like, “I’m really glad you’re watching for the neighborhood watch, and that’s great.”

But it was like one of those just total light bulb moments of like, “Oh, yeah.” She had good intentions and she was trying to be helpful, but I was also like, “Okay, that’s not helpful.”

So the AI thing in that respect is scary. And even when you see the fun things people make where they’re like, “This is what such people would look like in all of the 50 states according to AI,” and you’re like, “I have never seen a person who looks like that in that state in my…” Or they do your hometown and you’re like, “That is not what we look like. It is just…” You’re just like, “What are you doing?” And they’re supposed to be super smart computers.

I always laugh about it because every movie that has AI, AI is like this evil, sinister thing. During the strikes this year, I marched in solidarity and my sign was like, “You want AI? Don’t you remember Terminator?” That did not end well for everyone.

I think the companies have a lot of work to do to get people to be like, “This is great.” But for now, I think a lot of people are using AI in almost like this lazy way where it’s like, “I don’t have to write my term paper because AI will do it for me,” or “I’m not going to create this thing because AI.” I think we have to figure out how to harness it and make it work for us instead of just kind of being like, “I don’t want to do that task, but AI can do it.”

Kathy McGee: Yeah, I think that we do have to be careful and there is a lot of concern, but we also have to think about the impact of what you were just talking about, the use of racial stereotypes and such is really worrisome. It also, if we’re using more AI in educational systems, what are we learning? And we’re talking about the future, we’re talking about the people who will be leading in the future. And if you’re not doing the work of researching and studying and reading on your own, what are you going to have 10 years from now?

And we use it to a certain extent, a tiny bit in our newsroom for logging. I consider that AI technology, to log interviews. That is pretty much the only use that we have in our newsroom, and that’s not even an accurate transcript because it doesn’t necessarily pick up on all words. But that is the only use that I am aware of in our newsroom, and that’s been around for quite some time, transcript technology.

But one recent example of the use of AI in news and how news organizations can be caught and put in a very bad situation is the whole Kate Middleton saga and what’s going on with that, the pictures being altered, video that may or may not show her, and everyone running with it and putting it on the air and putting it in newspapers, unverified with attributions saying, “This is what the palace says about this picture,” or, “This is what this organization TMZ says about this video.” But I remember a time when we would not put that on TV unless we verified it ourselves. So that is a danger in people manipulating video, manipulating images and putting it on the air and printing it as factual.

Greg Iwinski: Yeah. And that Kate Middleton photo, I thought it was totally real. I don’t know. I thought that I would spot fakes better than that, but I was like, “Oh, she’s got her kids. Amazingly, she got all three kids to smile. Wow.” That was the least believable part of it for me as a parent. Then I was so surprised it was fake.

Beth Godvik: Don’t you feel though, every parent, especially every mom, first of all, no offense, Greg, but I don’t know how you take pictures of your wife and your kids, but my husband will take pictures of me and be like, “This is a great picture.” And I’ll look at it and be like, “What are you thinking? I love you. But no, we’re not putting this on the internet for people to see.”

So when she said she edited, I was like, “Well, duh. Of course, you did.” So I wasn’t surprised. I did think it was kind of funny. I’m like, “Is this really that big a deal?” But then going more into the, well, there’s editing. Do they move things around? I was like, “Oh, okay. This is not so stellar.” But I was also like, “This woman just wants to be left alone to recover, and can we give her a little bit of peace?” But I was like, “No. Her husband took the picture. Of course, she’s going to edit it, people.”

Greg Iwinski: Yeah. If I could make all my kids smile that big in every photo, it’d be great. Okay, so we have one last question. Great combo. So both of you have worked on negotiating committees for contracts. What are the issues that newsrooms are dealing with now? I’m not asking you to tip your hand for all for future negotiations or anything like that, but what are the issues that have been resolved recently through contracts, and what are the things that you see in the future as issues in newsrooms that the Guild is looking to get?

Kathy McGee: Job security, pay. Those, I think, are the two big ones.

Beth Godvik: And I think pay for what you do, not just… There’s base pay and then there’s all the extra work that you do that is not always compensated or not always seen. And then you have companies who sometimes they will divide you initially and then try and do the, “We’re all one big happy family,” and you’re like, “That’s cool. You’re still going to have to pay me for what I do.”

And I get it. As a bottom line, you’re looking at the different money and going, “Oh my God, we can’t afford this.” It’s like, “Okay, well then do you need it?” I think just journalism in general, it is staffing. It is so hard to find good people and do what we do. It’s a hard job. Like I always say to people, you have to love it because you work wild hours. You’re getting out of bed at crazy times. You’re dealing with secondary trauma on a lot of stuff.

Most of our morning show is in therapy, which is a great thing. I’m all for therapy. I think it’s fantastic, but I think we need to encourage that a little bit more for all journalists because we see a lot of stuff that the public doesn’t see and it’s hard. I think just the appreciation factor. There are some places that we have really good leadership and other places where it’s not so good, it needs to balance out a little bit more.

Kathy McGee: The mental health component of it is really important. I feel, especially since the pandemic, it’s become extremely important for newsrooms. And I would love to see a better… I guess, a more supportive system in my newsroom. I mean, we get the emails, “If you need help, we have people available.” But I think one-on-one conversations with people to make sure they’re okay, checking up-

Beth Godvik: And managers who they walk the walk that they’re talking. Like if they’re having a hard time, they need to show that it’s okay to say, “I need a break, or I need this, or I need that.” Or to also say, “No, you cannot work all these days in a row. Are all these wacky hours because that just messes with you.”

It’s hard and it’s a hard thing because nobody has a magic wand to fix everything. And I know some people just think that, “Well, the bosses should just make it better.” And like we can’t always. You try and do your best, but there’s got to be some give and take, but a little more… Sometimes even just compassion and kindness to be like, “Hey, I know what you’re going through right now, it is hard and I appreciate that you’re doing that.” And that goes a long, long way.

Kathy McGee: Right. Because we’ve had a lot of change, and change is difficult. And we’re told, “You have to embrace the change,” but it’s not so easy for everyone. We’re all wired differently.

Greg Iwinski: Yeah. It’s not only are the stories always changing, but the way that they’re getting delivered and you’re being asked to do it. But those baseline things and all these contracts, like you talk about job security and pay and having a positive good workplace that we’re fighting for and happy to have had you fighting for those for us and for the Guild. Kathy and Beth, thank you so much for coming on and for talking to us about writing.

Kathy McGee: My pleasure.

Beth Godvik: Thank You.

Speaker 4: OnWriting is a production of the Writers Guild of America, East. The series was created and is produced by Jason Gordon. Our associate producers are Molly Beer and Tiana Timmerberg. Our designer is Molly Beer, mix, tech production, and original music by Taylor Bradshaw. To learn more about the Writers Guild of America, East, visit us online at or follow the Guild on all social media platforms at @WGAEast. If you enjoyed the podcast, please subscribe and rate us. Thanks for listening, and until next time, write on.

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